Monday, February 28, 2022

Moral Compass for Philosophy 200 Ethics Course

Below is the assignment criteria for this paper:

Using the material on moral compasses from weeks 1 and 2, write a paper of no less than 500 words that accomplishes the following:

  • In a section titled "Theories" identify the 1-4 moral theories you will use to build your compass (deontological, utilitarian, common good, virtue, etc.) along with a short documented definition for each theory. ["documented" in the sense of citing and referencing your source.]
  • In a section titled "Explanation" explain for each theory how it would help you make what you feel would be the right decision and in what situations (ex. Using deontology at work to ensure the company’s policies are kept and its reputation is upheld; Using care ethics at home as a way to be equitable with the kids, etc.).
  • Chose one topic from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics (under “Ethics Spotlight” ) or another pressing ethical situation you or others you know are facing at the moment and using ether Framework for Ethical Decision Making (Markkula or Brown), walk through the steps to make an ethical decision and justify what you decide is the moral action to take in this situation. Be sure to be clear on which of the two frameworks you are using.
And here was my submission (received a 100%).

Theories

Stoicism’s moral framework is thoroughly based in virtue ethics.  The telos or end for the human, according to Stoicism, is eudaimonia which ultimately is living in agreement with Nature or the universe.  Applied at the individual level, living in agreement with the universe means “conforming one’s will with the sequence of events that are fated to occur in the rationally constituted universe, as providentially willed by Zeus” (Stephens).  Most events in the world are not up to us – the Stoics call these indifferents.  The only thing that is up to us is our “virtue, [which is] conceived as an excellent internal disposition of the soul; a healthy mind” (Sellars 133).  As such, the individual’s task is to grasp an accurate and correct perspective of events, and then determine the right attitude and action for the right reasons to demonstrate an excellent character, which is virtue or arete.

Another key point of Stoic ethics is the idea of oikeiôsis which can be translated as “orientation” and “appropriation” (Sellars 107).  This is an acknowledgement of humans’ drive for self-preservation.  While many living things strive purely for physical self-preservation, humans have the unique disposition of fulfilling their rational nature, which is the demonstration of excellence of character.  Furthermore, humans are social creatures, and for them to fully flourish, they must not only strive for excellence of self, but also seek and promote the rational well-being of those around them including family, friends, neighbors, fellow citizens, foreigners and any entity in the cosmos.  Anthony Long succinctly notes, “moral development for the Stoics is the recognition that community life and virtue are pre-eminently things which belong to human nature” (Long 191).

Explanation

The practicing Stoic will engage with the world while only focusing on what is up to him.  In other words, the only assets he has at his complete disposal are his rational nature (his ability to learn, reason and remember), and his moral attitude and action (the choice to act with morals such as justice, courage, temperance, diligence, and wisdom).  While recognizing that indifferents (e.g., health, sickness, wealth, poverty, fame, infamy, etc.) are neither good nor bad, he uses them to demonstrate his technical excellence in moral choice.  On these tenets, he assumes his position in life, learns, and carries out his duties in support of the common good.

This framework helps me to recognize my roles in life: a son, a husband, a friend, a father, a neighbor, a co-worker, an employee, a citizen.  While no one role takes up all the time and energy in my life, at times, various roles may come in conflict in terms of demanding attention.  At these moments, I can always ask myself: “what is the right moral virtue to demonstrate in this given circumstance?”  The answer usually provides a guide for my actions.

I think one of the most important choices a person has is whether to be a parent or not.  So many other ethical choices are wrapped up in that one choice.  I think my wife and I made the right decision to choose to have kids.  The second most important decision we faced was how to rear the four children well.  Not only did we need to provide for their physical well-being, but we had to consider their emotional and mental well-being and teach them how to take care of themselves and assume their unique position in the world in support of the common good.  And not only did my wife and I have to teach them these things, but we had to demonstrate it with thousands of our own choices day in and day out.  In every interaction, whether explicitly or implied, we asked ourselves and our children, “what is the correct moral virtue to exercise in this particular circumstance?”  The discussion of the matter and the actual choice have always been enlightening.

Application of Framework for Ethical Decision Making

Lia Thomas recently made national headlines after smashing several women’s swimming records (Chen).  The reason for the headlines is not only the sizable gap between the old and new record, but also because Lia was biologically born as male, and transitioned to become a woman as recently as 2019 (Levenson).  The ethical issue at hand is whether women’s collegiate swimming can be considered fair for most competitors who were born women as they compete against a swimmer who may have an unfair advantage from being born and living as a male but has transitioned to become a woman.  Stated differently, is the collegiate league for women’s swimming harmed by allowing Lia and future transgender athletes to compete?  Roughly following the Brown framework (issue, parties, relevant information, actions and alternatives, decide, act, reflect), I arrived at the opinion that gender leagues should be abolished in favor of a paradigm that more closely aligns with how the Paralympics compete.

Historically, many competitive sports have had separate divisions for men and women to allow women greater access to opportunities traditionally afforded to men.  If women’s sports leagues continue to allow participants who once competed in the male division to switch to the women’s division, does this make it fair for those female participants who have always competed in the women’s division?  Does a male-born individual, whose body produces testosterone for almost two decades, thus giving that person a size and muscle advantage over women who aren’t afforded the same biological benefit, have an unfair advantage?  These questions and considerations are many and complex.  Gathering all the relevant information on this subject area could take a long time for any one individual.

However, more importantly, leagues need to reflect on their aims and goals.  Once this is established and agreed upon, then league administrators could decide a course of action.  If historical continuity is tantamount, then perhaps it would be prudent to preserve male and female leagues, and perhaps create a transgender league to maintain consistency.  Alternatively, society may have advanced to a degree of competitive parity that people could decide all gender-based leagues ought to be abolished and competitive league criteria re-established along agreed upon lines such as body and muscle mass, and other considerations.

In any case, for this issue, it seems that the correct solution would be one that considers and protects the rights for all people involved (male, female and transgender), regardless of gender.  If one group’s right to fair competition is violated, then the entire concept of competition is eroded.  Alternatively, a paradigm could be created to find an appropriate competitive league that supports individuals of all genders.

My own opinion on this matter is that all gender-based sports ought to be abolished and sports ought to begin to follow the concept the Paralympics have established.  One sports sociologist who has studied this topic, contends we should, “remove the label of male or female and replace it with categories based on the ability of bodies to move in that particular sport” (Kerr).  Moving to this model accomplishes the goal of the establishment of fair competitive leagues, allows for people of all genders to compete on a level playing field, and allows for greater integration of women, men, and people of all genders in the spirt of camaraderie and fair competition.


Works Cited

Chen, Shawna. Axios: NCAA Clears Way for Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas to Compete at Nationals. Newstex, Arlington, 2022. ProQuest, https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy1.apus.edu/blogs-podcasts-websites/axios-ncaa-clears-way-trans-swimmer-lia-thomas/docview/2627218038/se-2?accountid=8289.

Kerr, Roslyn. “Why It Might Be Time to Eradicate Sex Segregation in Sports.” The Conversation, 14 Jan. 2018, theconversation.com/why-it-might-be-time-to-eradicate-sex-segregation-in-sports-89305.

Levenson, Eric. “How an Ivy League Swimmer Became the Face of the Debate on Transgender Women in Sports.” CNN, 23 Feb. 2022, edition.cnn.com/2022/02/22/us/lia-thomas-transgender-swimmer-ivy-league/index.html.

Long, A A. Hellenistic Philosophy : Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics. Berkeley ; Los Angeles, University Of California Press, 1986.

Sellars, John. Stoicism. New York ; London, Routledge, 2014.

Stephens, William. “Stoic Ethics | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, iep.utm.edu/stoiceth/.

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